This is one of the biggest questions that I think everyone should ask themselves before ever starting a fitness routine.
Your entire nutrition and exercise program is going to look different depending on your overall fitness goals so it’s important to identify your goals early on so you aren’t getting discouraged after your first month when you don’t see the results you expect.
If you are a beginner, you shouldn’t be setting goals that you know you can’t achieve. For example, if you haven’t seen a gym in 5 years, don’t set the expectation that you need to now all of a sudden hit it 5 days a week. Start with 3 days a week for no more than 45 minutes and get a solid nutrition plan in place. Unless you are going to get competitive or really train hard for a beach vacation coming up, you shouldn’t be putting unrealistic expectations on yourself that you can’t hit. I’ve been working out on and off for almost 20 years and I still don’t even go 5 days a week most weeks. It’s just not possible with all the things in life that pop up.
You also shouldn’t be cooking every single meal if you aren’t accustomed to it. If you choose to eat out, start eating out healthy (think Paleo eat-out options I.E. Chipotle) and make sure you are supplementing appropriately. Hardly anyone today has the time to cook every meal and eat 3-6 times per day depending on your diet. For that reason, supplementation has its advantages and nutrition has come a long way in the supplement arena over the last few years.
Follow the steps below to achieve the strongest version of “you” and never look back.
1. Live in reality.
Let’s set the record straight. 99.9% of us are not celebrities that have our livelihood depend on our looks. You probably aren’t making 10 Million a year per film or 500K per episode of a sitcom, so don’t hold yourself to the same fitness expectations as someone that can afford to employ a team of personal trainers, nutritionists and medical experts to help them get in shape for a movie role in 4 or 5 months. That doesn’t mean you can’t have huge results if you put in the time and effort, it just means that you probably don’t have the same resources or time a celebrity does, so you shouldn’t hold yourself to the same standards. It’s important to recognize this up front so you don’t get frustrated and throw in the towel right off the bat. You need to identify what body type you have and push forward with the best way to achieve your fitness reality.
On left: Estimated 6% Body Fat around 170 Pounds. On right: Estimated 5-6% Body fat at 200+ Pounds.
Which of these two pictures is more reasonable to obtain if you are a guy? Both guys are leaned out, with one doing a photo shoot and probably airbrushed, with the other a competitive bodybuilder, and both guys have very different strength training programs. Both builds will take a lot of work, and while achievable, just be prepared to put in the work to get there. If your main goal is to score pointers with the ladies, more than likely you are going to try and go for the more lean and athletic look as most women would rather have an athletic guy with washboard abs. Both of these guys probably get paid for fitness as their career, just in different categories, so this IS their day job. Food for thought when trying to obtain your best version of you: It’s a lot easier to trim down and maintain 6-10% body fat year round than it is to bulk up to what’s probably an unsustainable 200 pounds getting prepped for a body building competition.
2. Identify your own realistic goals.
Most Americans are simply fat when they start an exercise program. If you are struggling with being overweight, your goal should not be to get huge and look like Mr. Olympia in a fitness competition. Instead you should be setting yourself goals that you can track in a realistic time frame. Most People should focus on strength training and fat reduction before trying to “bulk up.” Fat reduction is the most important thing you can focus on before you start worrying about gaining muscle. While I am not a physician, most medical experts agree that a rate of 2 pounds per week is a healthy weight reduction for any individual. Any more aggressive than that, your body will be much more likely to gain it back as it goes into starvation mode. A good solid goal for anyone looking to drop weight should be between 8 and 10 pounds per month. While that may not sound like much, it adds up. After 2 months, you should be 20 pounds lighter. If your plan is to gain muscle, then your goals should look a little different. If you slim and trim carrying a ratio of only 6% body fat, then a healthy weight gain of 2 pounds per week is acceptable on the opposite end. Anything more than that is likely just fat gain which you want to minimize while you are trying to gain lean muscle mass.
3. Setup a plan of action and stick to it.
To lose weight, you need to be strength training at least 3 times per week. To gain muscle you need to workout at least 3 times per week. Your plan of action should include the items below:
- Set a realistic workout plan.
- Setup a spreadsheet to track your progress.
- Set a realistic nutrition and supplementation plan that you will follow.
Now that you’ve got your action plan, you need to act on it and stop procrastinating. Eliminate some of the time wasters in your life and get and start lifting heavy. If you’ve set the right goals, there’s no reason why you can’t get into the best shape you’ve ever been in, you just need to act.